big data in NYC

NYPD struggles to move crime analysis from Palantir to home-grown system

As the New York City Police Department prepares to move off a commercial crime analysis system to a home-grown version, officials are finding it's easier said than done.

Since at least 2012, NYPD has used software from Palantir, a data mining firm with several federal contracts, for crime analysis. The system allows officers to upload arrest records, parking tickets, license plate scans and more and make connections between those data elements, according to a BuzzFeed report.

To move to its own Cobalt system developed by NYPD, the city wants not just its data from Palantir's system, but also the company's analysis.  So far, Palantir has not produced the full analysis in a format that would work with the new software, despite multiple requests from NYPD. Palantir, according to BuzzFeed's sources, delivered a file, but "declined to provide a way to translate it, arguing that doing so would require exposing its intellectual property."

The contract was due to expire the beginning of July, BuzzFeed said, though the NYPD could continue to use the Palantir system but without product upgrades or support.

Palantir's data mining software has been used in several New York City offices, including the Department of Finance to root out mortgage fraud, according to Gizmodo

The Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics also used Palantir's data fusion software in its DataBridge, a common data source that unites formerly stove-piped information on a single platform, allowing for cross-departmental data analysis from 40 different agencies. The system allowed the city to find stores selling bootleg cigarettes, crack down on restaurants illegally dumping cooking oil into neighborhood sewers and direct housing and fire inspectors to structures that have been illegally sub-divided or are at risk of catching fire.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA from West Chester University and an MA in English from the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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